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Hallway Usability Tests

Hallway Usability Tests are the very least you should do to find major obstacles and inconsistencies in your interfaces before you deliver them to customers. Corinna has made very good experiences with Hallway Tests ever since she first learned about them in Joel Spolsky’s famous Joel Test.

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Content of the 1-Pager:

“A hallway usability test is where you grab the next person that passes by in the hallway and force them to try to use the code you just wrote. If you do this to five people, you will learn 95% of what there is to learn about usability problems in your code” – Joel Spolsky


  • Are you looking for problems in general? Or do you have a specific question?
    Example: Do people notice the link to YourCoolFeature? Do they click it?
  • Set up hardware, accounts etc. you will need · Phrase the context and task
    Examples: “You are a potential new customer, looking for a FluxCompensator. Please show me how you would you try to find it”, “You are a long-term customer and want to join our affiliate program. Please show me how you would do it”
  • Set up camp near the coffee machine and wait for someone to come by. Ask them for 5 minutes to help you out


  • Talk as little as possible after giving instructions · Only help when someone gets visibly frustrated · Avoid leading / suggestive questions
    Example: “Is there a way to do X?” If you ask like that, there probably is…
  • Look for what is NOT working as expected
  • Take notes during or immediately after the test
  • Thank them, especially if things went wrong. That’s when you learn the most!


  • Don’t justify why you built it this way or that
  • Don’t make your testers feel stupid. Not ever!
    If they have trouble it’s because of how the product was designed

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